Saturday Poem – Jack Woolley’s Dream

Jack Woolley (actor: Arnold Peters)

I have mentioned before that I love The Archers – this is the only soap opera which I actually follow and I have been a listener since I was four years old.  Aged six, I was scared of Clive Horrobin, aged ten I was left numb with shock after the sudden death of John Archer, as a teenager I was disgusted by Emma Carter’s bed-hopping antics and five years ago I sat beside the radio wiping away the tears at Nigel Pargeter’s funeral.  It’s a long-term thing and this poem really seems to capture the beauty that The Archers possess which has not been attained by any other soap opera.  Jack Woolley was a very good man and his descent into dementia was handled with sensitivity and a realism which television has never really achieved.  The Archers is quite frankly one of the great treasures of our nation.

Jack Woolley’s Dream

i.m. Arnold Peters

In bed he listens to the radio:
the sound effects of Schmallenberg and five-bar gates,
unscripted chatter in The Bull.
Thou art a veal calf in the cellar’s dark.
Thou art thy spouse’s cousin. Glasses please.

Faceless Kareninas frolic naked there
with moody Grundys in the barn of the ear,
the boring county of all day in bed,
too sick to read. No one can visit now.
What keeps it closed is how the valleys lie

and roads drift off in silent snow to choke
the afternoon as with a maypole ribbon.
All this is the invention of a mind
which needs a playground for its childhood:
he in Grey Gables dreams Grey Gables real.

The town is thirsty for a dearth of time
and static’s lull. There are antiques sobbing.
Tom’s new sausage vies with burning Grace.
It is the vale of lengthening shadow, the bridge

which takes each soul beyond its Am.

Tony Williams

For the full archive of past Saturday poems, visit Poetry Please in the Features.

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